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Mon, 10.11.1886

The Black LGBT Community in America, a story

*On this date in 1886, the Black LGBT community in America is affirmed.  Black LGBT people are both parts of African America overall and the LGBT culture overall.   This date was chosen because it's National LGBTQ.  LGBT (also seen as LGBTQ) stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer.

Black trans-woman Lucy Hicks Anderson, born Tobias Lawson in 1886, worked as a domestic worker as a teenager, eventually becoming a socialite and madame in Oxnard, California, during the 1920s and 1930s. In 1945, she was tried in Ventura County for perjury and fraud for receiving spousal allotments from the military, as her dressing and presentation as a woman was considered masquerading. She lost this case but avoided a lengthy jail sentence, only to be tried again by the federal government shortly thereafter. She, too, lost this case, and she and her husband were sentenced to jail time. After serving their sentences, She and her then-husband, Ruben Anderson, relocated to Los Angeles, where they lived quietly until she died in 1954.  

During the Harlem Renaissance, a subculture of LGBTQ Black writers, artists, and entertainers emerged, including Alain Locke, Countee CullenLangston HughesClaude McKayWallace Thurman, Richard Bruce NugentBessie SmithMa RaineyMoms MableyMabel HamptonAlberta Hunter, and Gladys Bentley. Places like Savoy Ballroom and the Rockland Palace hosted drag-ball extravaganzas with prizes for the best costumes. 

Langston Hughes depicted the balls as "spectacles of color." George Chauncey, author of Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940, wrote that during this period, "perhaps nowhere were more men willing to venture out in public in drag than in Harlem."  During the first night of the Stonewall riots, LGBTQ Blacks and Latinos likely were the largest percentage of the protestors because those groups heavily frequented the bar. Homeless Black and Latino LGBTQ youth and young adults sleeping nearby Christopher Park were likely among the protestors.

The overall American LGBT community received societal recognition after the Stonewall Riots in 1969. The Stonewall riots brought domestic and global attention to the lesbian and gay community. Proceeding Stonewall, Romer v. Evans vastly impacted the trajectory of the LGBT community. Ruling in favor of Romer, Justice Kennedy asserted in the case commentary that Colorado's state constitutional amendment "bore no purpose other than to burden LGB persons." Advancements in public policy, social discourse, and public knowledge have assisted in the progression and coming out of many LGBT individuals.

Statistics show an increase in accepting attitudes towards lesbians and gays in general society. A Gallup survey shows that acceptance rates went from 38% in 1992 to 52% in 2001.  However, when looking at the LGBT community through a racial lens, the black community lacks many of these advances. Research and studies are limited for the black LGBT community due to resistance towards coming out and a lack of responses in surveys and research studies. The coming out rate of Blacks is less than whites as they are often further marginalized within their community.  Surveys and research have shown that 80% of blacks say gays and lesbians endure discrimination compared to 61% of whites. Black members of the LGBT community are often seen as the "other" due to their race and sexuality, making them targets of whites and blacks.  

On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. The ruling was only on employment, like ENDA. LGBT rights advocates welcomed the ruling and called on Congress to pass the Equality Act, noting that as of 2020, 29 states do not have the full protections the Equality Act would provide for the LGBT community. As of 2010, the consensus is 14,129,983 people.  Out of that, it is estimated that 4.60 percent of the black population identifies as LGBT. Economically, statistics show black LGBT individuals are more likely to be unemployed than non-Blacks. According to the Williams Institute, the vast difference lies in the “not in the workforce” survey responses from different populations geographically.

Black LGBT individuals face the dilemma of marginalization in the job market. As of 2013, same-sex couples' income is lower than those in heterosexual relationships, with an average of $25,000. For opposite-sex couples, statistics show a $1,700 increase. Analyzing economic disparities on an intersectionality level (gender and race), the Black man is likely to receive a higher income than a woman. For men, statistics show approximately a $3,000 increase from the average income for all Black LGBT-identified individuals and a $6,000 increase in salary for same-sex male couples. Female same-sex couples receive $3,000 less than the average income for all Black LGBT individuals and approximately $6,000 less than their male counterparts. The income disparity among Black LGBT families affects the lives of their dependents, contributing to poverty rates. Children growing up in low-income households are more likely to remain in poverty. Due to economic disparities in the black LGBT community, 32% of children raised by gay black men are in poverty. However, only 13% of children raised by heterosexual Black parents are in poverty, and only 7% by white heterosexual parents. 

One of the greatest concerns in the black LGBT community is sexually transmitted diseases and one of the greatest STDs affecting the Black community is HIV/AIDS. Black people account for 44% of new HIV infections in adults and adolescents. Black women account for 29% of new HIV infections. For Black LGBT male-identified individuals, 70% of the population accounts for new HIV infections for adults and adolescents. The rates of HIV for black LGBT men are higher than their non-Black counterparts.  One major factor contributing to higher rates of STDs like HIV/AIDS is the lack of medical access. Rather than a high prevalence of unsafe sex, it is caused by a limited supply of antiretroviral therapy in non-white communities.  

The 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges case was pivotal in showing the resilience of the 14th Amendment. Also in the 21st century, Black LGBT culture has been depicted in films such as Patrick Ian Polk's Noah's Arc and PunksPariah, and Barry Jenkins' Moonlight, which not only has the main character as a gay Black but is written by a Black person and is based on a play by Black gay playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney.  In 2018, the TV show Pose premiered, the first to feature a predominately non-white LGBT cast on a mainstream channel.

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